When Relationships Turn Ugly: Domestic Violence
A high-profile couple became the focus of speculation and tabloid fodder over the past few days. Although this is not unusual, the allegations of assault are more upsetting than typical Hollywood gossip. While the specifics of this altercation are unclear, the disturbing rumors highlight the important issue of domestic abuse.
Teen violence is a subset of domestic violence, which has been gaining nationwide attention. The Center for Disease Control's 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that approximately 10 percent of adolescents nationwide report being assaulted by a boyfriend or girlfriend during the previous year. Other statistics find that 1 in 3teenagers has experienced dating violence. Teen dating violence often goes unnoticed because teenagers are developing their independence and may be disinclined to report the abuse to an adult. Teens are inexperienced at dating and are just beginning to learn what is healthy in terms of relationships. Also, teens may fail to recognize the early warning signs that they are in an abusive relationship. They may romanticize early warning signs, such as a partner's controlling behavior and extreme jealously as "proof that he loves me." Because of these and other reasons, February 2nd-6th is National Teen Violence Awareness and Prevention Week.
It is an opportune time to educate ourselves and others about the problem. Domestic violence encompasses a range of behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, or threaten an intimate partner. It takes many forms--physical, emotional, psychological and economic among others. It is usually about one partner gaining control and power over the other. It can occur regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or age.
Teens experiencing abuse may demonstrate a sudden shift in behavior. Changes in academic performance, truancy, emotional outbursts, alcohol/drug use and increased isolation are just a few of the possible signs. Teenagers need to learn that they deserve to be treated with respect and that have the ability to create healthy relationships. The first step in this learning process may be a caring adult simply noticing their situation and offering help.
If you, or someone you know, are a victim of domestic violence there are many national and local resources.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: www.ndvh.org
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: www.loveisrespect.org
Sources: Office on Violence Against Women, National Domestic Violence Hotline